All Things Gardening forum: I'm a beginner and don't know what I'm doing. Please help me not lose my mind!

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Pasadena, Ca
Mographer
Aug 23, 2017 6:19 PM CST
Hello Forum! I just found this the other day and am thankful to have a place where I can ask questions. I have many! I just bought a house a year ago and have recently begun trying to tackle some landscape design. So far I've put in two gardens, a full sun garden and a mostly shade garden. Trying to care for these plants while getting established has been very trying to say the least. In general does anyone have tips for knowing if my plants are healthy and getting established ok? Here are photos of the two areas, a list of the plants and some questions in regards to them if anyone would be so kind as to help me learn how to do this right!

I am located in Pasadena, Ca. Zone 10

Thumb of 2017-08-24/Mographer/4fba9b

Full Sun Garden:

White Iceberg Rose Tree:
In general this seems to be doing ok. The flowers come and go really fast. Is that normal? It also seems a bit finicky with water. Too much and leaves start to yellow, too little and the leaves start to yellow. Any tips?

Salvia:
Also seems to be doing ok but the pretty purple flower stalks have pretty much all gone gray. Is the plant not healthy or is the flowering season coming to an end? I don't know

French Lavender:
This is the frustrating plant of the bunch. I've already had 4 of the 10 plants die, and it feels like the health of the others is questionable. I can never tell. Sometimes the buds droop in the afternoon, but I read that it's just a coping mechanism and to NOT give them extra water. I planted them too deep first go round, so I dug them up and made sure they were planted on a bit of a mound. Was that the right thinking?

Thumb of 2017-08-24/Mographer/091190

Shade Garden:

Hydrangea: I can't tell if these are doing ok. When I received them they had one large flower that was just barely starting to bloom, and a bunch of other small buds. The larger flowers bloomed and look pretty healthy. Some of the smaller ones look to be struggling a bit. Half of them will turn dark brown. One of the hydrangeas(you can't see in this pic) is in a spot that gets afternoon sun, and it majorly droops if I don't shade it. Is this normal? Will it always be like this?

Heuchera: I put in several different varieties, and they all seem to be doing ok. Some are growing better than others. Some don't look like they are growing at all. Any signs of good health/establishment I should be looking for?

Lamium: What I thought would be the easiest of what I planted has turned out to struggle the most. They do seem to be spreading, but many of them are losing their foliage towards the center of the plant, and some of them have tons of holes eaten all through them. I don't know by what. Any suggestions for getting this stuff to thrive? Can they tolerate any sun? It seems like the ones planted where some afternoon sun gets in are doing the worst.

Acacia(Cousin Itt): All seems well with these guys, but I learned after the fact that they are really slow growers.

Name: Philip Becker
Fresno California (Zone 8a)
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Philipwonel
Aug 24, 2017 4:53 PM CST
I'll give you some ideals.
Summer planting is hard on plants.
Even drought tollerent roses and lavender.
On rose, did you gently break rootball some. Sounds like its rootbound. Roots wont break out of ball. You may need to dig up and open up roots some.
Possibly same on others.

Your question is to busy.
You will get better responses if you go to ASK A QUESTION, and post a question for each plant individually. Thumbs up
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Anything i say, could be misrepresented, or wrong.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Aug 25, 2017 7:37 PM CST
Gardening is like caring for icebergs - 90% is below the surface Smiling

The place to start with a garden is soil preparation and planning a watering system. That's 90% of the job. The other 10% is adding plants.

Did you start in the beginning? Or at the end?
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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Name: Tiffany purpleinopp
Opp, AL 🌵🌷⚘🌹🌻 (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Aug 27, 2017 6:41 AM CST
I have been gardening most years for over 3 decades, and the majority of the time, I consider what I'm doing an experiment. Don't stress about not knowing what you are doing, as long as you are having fun doing it, and remain open to changing things that do not work well. I will never be "done" with my garden and there is never a plan to say that I am.

What you have started looks lovely!

My gut reaction to your post was similar to Daisy's, that plants can only be as good as the "dirt" in which they are growing, and that healthy plants in fertile soil are so much more likely to overcome any adversities so much more easily. If you have 15 mins to watch this vid, it may be as life (or should I say garden) changing for you as it was for me.
https://permaculturenews.org/2...
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Name: Sally
central Maryland
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sallyg
Aug 27, 2017 7:14 AM CST
Rose, flowers do come and go fast
Salvia- it is normal for the stalks to grow long as individual flowers develop. Eventually, cut off the long stalk of mostly seed pods and let new stalks fill in (or leave the stalks to see if birds eat the seed)
Lavendar- I will guess you have dry air and dry soil?. My guess is the roots of the individual plants might not be staying wet. Same for rose- make sure when you water, you are soaking the roots of the new plants and not just wetting the top couple inches overall. Dig between plants and see if it is dry down there when you think it is wet.
Second pic looks pretty good, but a lot of plants near a big tree..
..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
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Name: Rick Moses
Derwood, MD (Zone 7b)
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RickM
Aug 27, 2017 7:41 AM CST
Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!

We're so happy that you found us!

As others have pointed out, starting a new garden in summer is challenging. Looking at your photos, it doesn't look like you have any mulch down, especially in the sun garden. In a sunny, dry environment, you would want at lest a 2 inch thick layer of mulch. You can get away with a thinner layer in the shade garden as it won't dry out too fast.

As far as watering the sun garden, consider using a soaker hose or a small irrigation system that has outlets near each plant. The soaker hose would go UNDER the mulch, while the irrigation system would be above. Both have advantages, but in either case, you would want to get a timer for your hose so that you can set it and walk away. As your plants get established, their root systems will spread so that they can pick up more water. You might want to consider getting a soil moisture meter to periodically check how dry the soil is.


Turning to your shade garden, I agree with Sally in that you have a lot of plants near a big tree. As I'm sure you found out, there are a lot of tree roots where you've put plants. adding all of those plants at once creates competition for minerals and water for both the tree and your new plants. Be aware that any watering you do will not only help your plants, but also encourage the tree to send out small roots to capture some of that new-found water.

A word of caution on your large tree... don't pile mulch around it like you see at commercial properties. Not only does a tree take up nutrients and water from their roots, they also take in air. You'll notice that where the tree meets the ground, there are a number of large roots spreading out in a star pattern. This is called the 'root flare'. If you pile too much mulch and cover the flare, you will encourage the tree to develop smaller roots in the mulch to collect water, nutrients and air. This will lead to a condition known as 'girdling'. This is when the smaller roots grow over the large support or buttress roots and can eventually circle the tree causing it to literally suffocate. Here are two sites that explain the problem and how to deal with it.

https://preservationtree.com/blog/cmon-show-us-your-flare-why-tree-root-flares-should-be-exposed

http://treeshepherds.net/services/root-flare-exposure/

You can place a barrier around the base of the tree where the true root flare goes into the ground. Keep this area free of plants and mulch. Outside of the barrier, feel free to put down as mulch mulch and plants as you want (within reason). If you want to put something around the actual tree base, you can place potted plants. Or, put a small bench in the open area. A bench will disguise the large, bare area and give you a perch from where you can relax and enjoy your hard work.
Pasadena, Ca
Mographer
Aug 29, 2017 7:24 PM CST
Hello everyone, thank you for all the replies. I thought after I posted that indeed it is too many questions in one post so I apologize for that, but thanks to you all for giving me some answers!

So to answer the questions about soil prep. For the sun garden I did mix in some general planting soil in an approximate mixture of 50/50 with the soil I dug out for the hole and then used the mixture to fill in the hole, which I dug approximately double the width and depth of the plants root ball. That's what the garden center I bought the plants from said to do so I just went with their advice.

In the shade garden I tilled up the entire bed and amended the entire thing with several bags of amending soil and then again mixed in more to fill in the holes I dug for the plants.

In regards to the comments about a lot of plants under a tree... I wasn't really aware of this. Should I move some of them out? My whole point in doing this was to fill this space and make it more interesting looking, but by the sounds of it between plants competing for nutrients and also not letting the trees root flare be buried, it doesn't sound like I should really do much at all in this space? Are there any ideas you guys have for what I could do to beautify this area?

Thanks again for the replies!

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